Free time is scarcer than ever right now. My wife has returned to work meaning I’m running a daddy daycare – starring three kids under the age of 3 – for a month, while keeping up with my jobby job at night. Needless to say, I’m back off the wagon when it comes to energy drinks.
To the point, I made sure to be able to catch a chunk of the Oklahoma City-Houston game in the NBA playoffs the other night – sleep be damned. But, here’s the thing: I didn’t watch for the sake of watching; I watched to see what the Thunder would look like without one of their stars – newly injured point guard (and askew fashion plate) Russell Westbrook.
There’s been far too much of that this year in the NBA: Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Kobe Bryant, David Lee, Danilo Gallinari, to name a few, all key members of quality clubs missing postseason time due to injury. That has to be factoring into the rash of all-or-nothing games so far, right?
Alarmists may try and spin this as an emerging trend – guys are too big, too fast and train too hard; their bodies simply can’t take it. I’m not sold on that – at least not yet – in part because there’s a chance that just as many careers are extended by modern science due to better nutrition and medical procedures as are cut short. You know, like that blood-spinner Kobe … er … that health nut Steve Nash … er … Tim Duncan – he must be doing something cutting edge.
Rather, I think it’s just as likely to be a stroke of bad luck. Really bad luck. Because the last couple of postseasons were phenomenal in terms of shining stars (Dirk, LeBron) and tight games in tight series. (At least, that’s the way I remember them; the stats may or may not back that up, but perception is reality.) It’s unfortunate for the league as a whole as much as for individual teams – they have no real control over this, and it’s costing them what could have been a golden season.
Instead, there’s a chance that the only real intrigue will be in regard to what team can jimmy rig a lineup good enough to get to the Heat. And then game over. Unless, of course, Miami gets kicked in the groin by the injury bug. (And, no, Dwyane Wade missing a couple of games doesn’t count). To be clear, no sane person roots for injuries. It’s just hard to see anything else slowing down the Heat, who were the best team in basketball before their primary foils started dropping like flies.
To be clear, I’ll still watch a good chunk of the action – just not as much as last year, barring a couple of major upsets or 75-point games by Steph Curry. And even then, it will be impossible to ingest the action without knowing that it’s not as good as it should be, that it’s being tainted by the mounting injuries. The idea that extra strategy is required of coaches and players because of the absences is OK, but it’s not nearly as fun as watching the best players in the world go at each other.
Injuries are a part of the game. It’s just that this year they’re too much in the mix. Two giant, pro-wrestling-fan style thumbs down for that.